How do courts root themselves in traditional tort principles and policies and also develop tort common law in ways that befit contemporary values? This essay argues that judges should weave classic tort aims of harm prevention and redress with contemporary norms of equality of persons, to provide a fuller accounting to people foreseeably risked and harmed by projects undertaken for financial gain. In essence, common law courts must re-ask the crucial question of who is a neighbor in a shrinking world in which risks and consequences can be traced somewhat farther. The article commends a few recent decisions that compel legal regard for a broader cohort of injured people and promote care for their wellbeing. It also encourages scholars to engage more deeply with the state court decisions that determine tort law’s reach.
I am deeply grateful to Vice Chief Justice Ann Timmer, Judge Samuel Thumma, John Goldberg, David Jacobs, Gregory Keating, and Cathy Sharkey for their thoughtful insights on a previous draft. I am also indebted to my outstanding research assistants, Rachel Romaniuk and Thomas Corrigan, whose diligent work greatly improved the piece. Thanks too to librarian Shaun Esposito for his fine sleuthing with respect to historical legal resources.
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